Scholarships help senior stay debt free

By Bob Cunningham

Jessica Gregor attends Bowling Green State University thanks to the military, but small scholarships have helped the senior remain clear of student loans.

Gregor, 26, is an applied health and science major who graduated from Waite High School in Toledo in 2007. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to tackle the responsibility of being a college freshman, so she enlisted in the Air Force.

“When I graduated, I wasn’t really in a good mind-set to go to college,” said Gregor, who has maintained a 4.0 grade-point average at BGSU. “I really hadn’t prepared for it. I just kind of graduated and waited to see what happened next. Instead of waiting a year, I just went straight into the military.”

Gregor served as an air traffic controller for about four years at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. She earned a scholarship during her service and decided to attend Bowling Green State Unversity.

“I knew I didn’t want to stay in my hometown and do what everyone else was doing,” she said. “One of the things that really attracted me to the Air Force was that they really offered a lot of travel opportunities. I took college courses while I was in the military and all the scholarship opportunities they provide for people who are already in also was key. It really was a win-win situation because I got a little bit of experience under my belt, and at the same time I’m still able to go to college, just a little later.”

Gregor, who lives off campus in Bowling Green with her husband, Paul, said the discipline and no quit-attitude she acquired in the military is reflective in her academic drive for success.

“I think if I hadn’t gone in the Air Force first I wouldn’t be nearly a good a student as I am now,” she said. “You think of the military, you think of discipline—It’s not just that though. It forces you to follow through with things. When I went to basic training, I didn’t want to be there. It’s hard but there’s no quitting. You have to go through and finish it, so I kind of do the same thing here with my schoolwork.

“I plan things ahead, I finish every project that I start, and I don’t think I would have head that same drive or discipline without going to the military first.”

Gregor takes the same disciplined approach in applying for grants and scholarships. Writing is one of her hobbies, and she gets to practice that skill in the essay portion of the application process. Gregor recently was awarded the Once a Falcon, Always a Falcon Scholarship by the Bowling Green State University Foundation, Inc., for the 2015-16 school year. The $1,000 scholarship will be paid in two installments over the academic year and can be used for any education-related expense.      

Each scholarship Gregor attains puts her in a position to succeed at BGSU, as well as financially down the road.

“Thankfully, I haven’t had to take out any student loans,” she said. “I’m really careful. I have my scholarships at the Air Force and I try to apply for more here just so that way I’m not forcing myself to work 40 hours a week to support my lifestyle as an adult. Without scholarships, there’s no way I could have done this whatsoever—gone back to school at my age.”

Gregor wants to enroll in a physician assistant program after graduating from BGSU, but she also will return to the Air Force as an officer.

“My scholarship through the Air Force has stipulations that kind of has me obligated to go back in as an officer, but at the same time I’m going to grad school as well,” she said.”My whole college career basically has been through the help of scholarships and the financial assistance.”

Gregor realizes her pre-college military path might not be for everybody, but she recommends high school graduates and other students at least take a look into it.

“I wasn’t as nearly as good a student as I am now,” she said. “I kind of think of myself at 18 and I wasn’t a very good student at all, so the military really helped me personally.”

Scholarships—both big and small—are another matter. Gregor can’t recommend them enough.

“Without scholarships, there would be no way I could pay for this on my own,” she said. “It would be just years and years of paying off loans.

“Now, it’s kind of like a freedom because I’m getting my education and not being held back by all the bills that come with it.”

Every gift, no matter the size, helps students like Jessica. To make a gift today, please visit bgsu.edu/give.